RVing After Serving the Country: Military Veteran RVer Discounts & Insights
RVing After Serving the Country: Military Veteran RVer Discounts & Insights
Learn more about Winnebago’s MILWIT Club and their top tips!
By: Kenny & Sabrina Phillips
Sabrina and I have had the pleasure of meeting many people who have served our country during our RV travels. We appreciate everything our active military members and Veterans have done for us, especially since we know it is a career or life choice that we would not be brave enough to take on.
When I think of our Veterans, I often think of my grandfather who enlisted into the Army Air Corps after World War II had already started. He rarely spoke about his time in the military and never wore any items in his civilian life to say he was a Veteran. But when people did find out, they would often come up to him and thank him for his service. This is something that I now do when I meet a service member.
I wanted to write this article as a thank you to those who have served, in hopes that I can share some helpful information from other members of the Veteran community with these brave people while they embark on a new adventure in RV life.
Note: If you are a fellow civilian, I’ve also included some great ways that you can give back to the military community at the end of this article. Please be sure to check that out!
Insights from the MILWIT Club
During Camp Winnebago (formerly Grand National Rally) I had the opportunity to sit down with the MILWIT Club, (Military Winnebago International Travelers Club). The club is made up of Active Duty, Reserve, and Retired Military persons who are members of Winnebago’s community. You can learn more about the club here.
When I arrived to meet up with the club, they were organizing one of their nightly get-togethers. They were having pizza and margaritas, which they graciously offered to share with me, and you could tell right away that they had a strong bond with one another in the way they joked and chatted. They were using many terms that I was not familiar with, and it was almost as if they were speaking their own language.
Once we all settled in, I asked them why they thought the RV lifestyle attracted so many military service members and if there was anything they learned from the military that they were able to carry over into RVing. The group said they would get moved around a lot while on active duty and, as they traveled, they would keep notes of where they would like to return and see at a more leisurely pace.
The ones that served in the Navy said they didn’t get to travel across the U.S or any type of land travel and felt that RVing was a great way to catch up on what they had missed. They also said while they were active military most of their travel was done in tents and now that they are on their own, they feel like they are glampers in their Winnebagos with all the comforts of home. In addition, RVing was a cost-effective way to travel due to making their own meals and not paying for hotels.
The group expressed that the military lifestyle easily transferred over to RV life, such as being able to adapt to different situations, being flexible and thinking fast on their feet, and (most importantly) working together - whether that be in their own household or traveling in a group/caravan.
I also wondered if they liked being thanked for their service as I always say it to service members when I see them. I was glad to hear they all agreed that yes, they do appreciate the sentiment. However, they noted they are not looking for special treatment, it’s just nice to be recognized and appreciated.
Tips for Military Service Members Who Are New to RVing
While I had the group all together, I thought it would be a great opportunity to ask them if they had any tips that they could pass along for other service members, especially for those that are new to RVing. I also have several friends who are retired military and asked them to weigh in with some tips as well.
This is what I gathered, and I hope this information can help make RV travel even more cost effective and enjoyable for any service member getting ready to hit the road.
Get Setup to Access Healthcare on the Road
If eligible, the MILWIT Club advises you use the VA hospital system, just know it can be slow. However, all your records will be in the system so even when out of your home state, your care team should have access to your full medical record.
The group also had good things to say about TRICARE, which is the healthcare program for uniformed service members, retirees, and their families. They said one of the things they liked most about it is it allows them to pick up prescriptions at any pharmacy in the U.S. except for Walmart.
Do Your Research Before Getting an RV
Everyone agreed that research was key to a successful first-time outing. They all did a lot of research before purchasing an RV and hitting the road. The more you know in advance, the easier your travels will be. They recommended YouTube as an excellent source for learning about maintenance and what to expect when RVing for the first time.
You can also check here for more GoLife educational articles!
Don’t Forget Your Discount
MILWIT members also stated when visiting a new store or business that asking if they have a military discount can help you save while traveling. They told me many places will not always advertise it, so it is worth asking.
Top Discounts for Veteran RVers
There is a website called Military.com and one of their pages is dedicated to discounts. I would like to share some of those discounts that can be helpful to RVers, but to see the full list check it out here.
1. Military Campgrounds & Discounts on Camping
Some of the biggest discounts for retired military can be found at overnight stays. In addition to many campgrounds offering military discounts, there are a lot of military bases with campgrounds on their property. These often cost much less than commercial campgrounds and still offer amenities like full hookups.
The MILWIT group recommended using apps like RVParky and Allstays. These apps will also have a rating system and let you know the rules of the park, plus important information like if you need a reservation or if it is first come, first served. Be sure to have your retired military card on hand upon check in.
2. National Parks & State Parks
Veterans and Gold Star Families can receive a free lifetime Military Pass to our U.S. national parks. Current U.S. military members and their dependents can receive a free annual pass. This provides free access to more than 2,000 federal recreation areas, including national parks, wildlife refuges, and forests. Learn how to apply for your free Military Pass to the national parks here.
The pass also waives the entrance fee for the following places:
- Bureau of Land Management
- Bureau of Reclamation
- US Fish and Wildlife Service
- US Forest Service
- US Army Corps of Engineers
The MILWIT group also told me that many State Parks offer a discount for military and that you should call ahead to find out or ask during check in.
Read this story about why a disabled Veteran and his family chose RV life to enjoy the national parks and more!
3. Auto & Repair
AutoZone and Advanced Auto Parts offer a 10% discount which can help you keep your RV maintenance cost down. Jiffy Lube offers a 15% discount which would be perfect if you have a tow vehicle. They also have a nationwide shared database so any Jiffy Lube will have your vehicle service info saved as you travel from location to location.
Discount Tire offers a 5% discount, and it can be combined with other discounts which is not common. Camping World offers a 5% discount in their retail store, just know it is not good for purchase of RVs or boats.
Escapees RV Club offers free annual passes to active-duty military and a 5% discount to Veterans. Both memberships offer 5% off of their mail forwarding service, which is the mail service that Sabrina and I have been using for the last seven years and we can say it works flawlessly.
All the major cell phone carriers such as Verizon, AT&T, and Sprint offer discounts on their services which could save you money on hotspots to keep you connected to family and stream your favorite shows on the road.
USAA seems to be the insurance that everyone in the group uses since it is only available for active and retired military. They all had good things to say about it.
Although I could not find any discounts on fuel for the military, I did see the Flying J/Pilot offers 10% off food and drinks when verified through their app. I will add that the app does offer 5% off fuel, but that is offered to everyone with the app or card. This article shares other fuel-saving tips for RVers.
How Can Civilians Help or Say Thanks?
When I asked the group what the best way was that we can help or say thanks to our Veterans they suggested donating to organizations such as the Wounded Warrior Project. This is an organization that not only helps with physical injuries from war, but also helps those with PTSD.
Another organization that Sabrina and I donate to is Mind Over Land. This organization gets Veterans back to enjoying the great outdoors with the camaraderie of fellow Veterans through the use of vehicle-based adventures.
A fellow Winnebago owner also started Warrior Expeditions as a way to help Veterans with PTSD through long-distance outdoor expeditions. A few years back, a Travato owners group actually helped support one of the events and found it very rewarding.
If you want to give your time, finding an organization that needs volunteers to help with event support and other tasks is also a great way to give back.
I hope you find this information helpful and if you know of any other tips or discounts, please add them in the comment section for others to see. I wish you all safe travels and hope to see you on the road someday!
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